Goth migration induced changes in the matrilineal genetic structure of the central-east European population
For years, the issues related to the origin of the Goths and their early migrations in the Iron Age have been a matter of hot debate among archaeologists. Unfortunately, the lack of new independent data has precluded the evaluation of the existing hypothesis. To overcome this problem, we initiated systematic studies of the populations inhabiting the contemporary territory of Poland during the Iron Age. Here, we present an analysis of mitochondrial DNA isolated from 27 individuals (collectively called the Mas-VBIA group) excavated from an Iron Age cemetery (dated to the 2nd-4th century A.D.) attributed to Goths and located near Masłomęcz, eastern Poland. We found that Mas-VBIA has similar genetic diversity to present-day Asian populations and higher diversity than that of contemporary Europeans. Our studies revealed close genetic links between the Mas-VBIA and two other Iron Age populations from the Jutland peninsula and from Kowalewko, located in western Poland. We disclosed the genetic connection between the Mas-VBIA and ancient Pontic-Caspian steppe groups. Similar connections were absent in the chronologically earlier Kowalewko and Jutland peninsula populations. The collected results seem to be consistent with the historical narrative that assumed that the Goths originated in southern Scandinavia; then, at least part of the Goth population moved south through the territory of contemporary Poland towards the Black Sea region, where they mixed with local populations and formed the Chernyakhov culture. Finally, a fraction of the Chernyakhov population returned to the southeast region of present-day Poland and established the archaeological formation called the "Masłomęcz group".